As a stereotypical English tea lover, the traditional drink is a constant in my life. Whether it’s an early morning, the end of a meal or I’ve just finished work, straight to the tea cupboard is where I go, and when someone visits or returns home, ‘cuppa tea?’ is the usual greeting. In England, there is little that cannot be solved with a good, hot cup of tea, and although Earl Grey, (with a small amount of milk), is my personal go to, there are so many out there that there is surely something for everyone to try. After all it isn’t for nothing that, next to water, tea it is the most widely consumed drink in the world.
1. Chai tea, India
The word Chai is actually Hindi for tea, and this traditional hot Indian drink is made from a mix of steeped spices. Although recipes vary, traditional ingredients usually include black tea mixed with strong spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger and black peppercorns, and the spiced tea mixture is usually brewed strong before adding milk and either sugar or honey to sweeten. Chai has become popular outside of India, and Chai lattes are common in most coffee houses, although they are quite different to the original Indian Chai. This is always my go to winter drink, as the spices are deliciously warming and just what you need on a cold wintery day!
2. Açores tea, Portugal
1500km from mainland Portugal in the Azores, the only two tea factories remaining in Europe harvest and produce their own tea. In 16th century China, tea was introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants, who later brought it to Europe. The Portuguese called it Chá because the Chinese character for ‘tea’ can be read as Te (from the Malay word meaning ‘drink’), or as Cha (from the Mandarin word for ‘harvest’). The latter was preferred and ‘tea’ is still called ‘chá’ in today’s Portuguese. Nowadays, the two Azores ‘chá’ companies, Gorreana Tea Factory and Porto Formoso Tea Factory, produce both Black and Green Tea with several varieties of each. Their teas are produced to the highest standards and are 100% organic, a healthy and tasty drink.
3. Matcha tea, Japan
Matcha tea is traditionally drunk in East Asia, and is the centre of the Japanese tea ceremony, in which it is prepared, served and consumed in a meditational and spiritual process. Matcha is made from specially grown and processed green tea leaves, which are ground into a fine powder and typically added to hot water or milk to make the hot tea. Because of the processes involved in growing green tea plants for Matcha, it contains a higher level of caffeine. Often as a flavouring in Japan, for example Matcha iced tea and even Matcha kit-kats, Matche has also become trendy in the west, with Matcha lattes available in many coffee houses nowadays. Slightly bitter, Matcha tea is a nice refreshing drink, especially good if you need a bit of a caffeine kick!
4. Iced tea, USA
Iced tea, popularised by the USA, is what it says on the tin; black tea on ice. Fruit infusions of iced tea have also become popular in Europe, and the chilled version of the classic hot drink is great during the summer months. Indeed a refreshing glass of homemade iced tea, complete with orange and lemon slices, is ideal on a hot day. However, the Southern states of the USA have their own version of Iced tea, Sweet tea. This is traditionally drunk year round and is served with most meals, at home and in restaurants. In fact down South, this is often what people mean when they say tea, a sweet, cold black brew.
5. Earl Grey tea, UK
Earl Grey is a popular British tea, created by adding Bergamot oil to a black tea blend. The Bergamot gives Earl Grey its unigue citrus flavour, slightly more floral than your standard black tea. Traditionally this type of tea was drunk black as the tea blend used was intended to be drunk without milk, and a slice of lemon was added to enhance the citrus flavouring. However nowadays tea companies use much stronger tea blends which are better suited to adding milk. English tea company Twinings also created their trademarked Lady Grey tea, which contains additional lemon and orange peel to enhance the citrus flavours, whilst there is also Russian Earl Grey, a variation which uses peels and lemongrass to create its flavours. However you choose to take your Earl Grey, a cuppa at the end of a long day is always a treat.